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. mule boak tree
I got to live up to it. And, Tim,' he ironed a collar, and done up his best went on, as he drew a figure with his shirt. He avoided her as much as stick that looked suspiciously like possible, and after putting the mule to a banjo, 'they sent me over here to see the cart, told her that he'd come along if you won't come to church. I give later with Sam. But she would n't you fair warning, though, you ain't got leave until Sam had shown up. And a show agin' that man with the black even then there was misgiving in her beard onct he gits to tackling you. face as she drove away. But, Tim, you 'n' me must be wrong. “We 'll have to hurry if we git there We cain't stand out when all the whole in time,' said Sam. neighborhood 's already filled with re- 'I'd druther be a little mite late, ligion. You orter seed how happy the had n't you?' Tim queried. old man and muh was. And think how And Sam was bound to confess that glad yer Aunt Marg’ret ’ll be.'
he would. Presently Tim went in and 'I been thinking 'bout it all the dressed, and slowly they went across whole morning,' he said glumly. the fields and into the path through
'Well, I got to be hitting the grit the woods. back to the church.' He stood up. When they arrived at the church 'Cain't you git on yer duds and go they found it packed full of people. with me now? We 'll take a back seat Carts, wagons, ox-carts, and various in the house.'
means of conveyance were scattered “No, I cain't go now, Sam.
under the oak trees. And now and then "Well, how 'bout to-morrow? Re a mule brayed and rubbed his bridle member, if you don't go there, they ’re vigorously against the rough bark of coming here and have a meeting.' a tree. These familiar sights and
'I dunno, I dunno,' was all that he sounds somewhat heartened Tim, and could say.
he breathed easier. They found the 'Listen! I'll come by fer you in the door so crowded that apparently no morning. Will you go then?'
one else could push his way in. A hot He waited, and Tim thought a fetid air poured out from the building while. At last with a decisive move in their faces. And Tim shuddered at ment he spat out his tobacco.
the thought of entering. They had 'Yeh, I will. I 'll go and see what 's just begun to hope that they would
have to stay outside to hear the serWith that he got up and went to mon, when there was a stir at the door, chopping wood. After a few more and a huge bearded man in black words, Sam hurried across the fields clothes and a celluloid collar shoveled toward the church.
his way through and took Tim by the
"This is Brother Tim Messer, is it?'
the voice rumbled, and Tim felt the The next day — the last one of the jar of it against his chest as he nodded. meeting – Tim was filled with a In a moment he was in the church, nervous uncertainty. The preaching sitting by Sam on the front seat withhour drew near and he had made no out knowing how he got there. Directly preparation to get ready. But Aunt before him was the altar, a large bench Margaret, who saw her prayers being facing the audience, in front of which answered at last, had been up since hay was scattered for the mourners
hent he spatst with a am thought
the way the hay was worn and broken, By this time Tim was thinking of it was apparent that many a stiff bout bolting through the crowd and out at with the devil had taken place during a window. He felt rivulets of sweat the last two weeks. All of these par- running ceaselessly beneath his shirt. ticulars floated above the deep misery And Sam's condition appeared no of Tim's mind. For Sam was right. better. It seemed to Tim that the He had n't a chance against that climax to his misery had come when preacher, and he already realized it. Aunt Margaret broke down in the
The service began immediately with middle of her talk and began weeping singing. Old Ben Truelove led off with wildly. The preacher sat in his chair 'A Great Day Coming.' At the be on the rostrum, fanning himself and ginning of the second stanza, two hun- crying out now and then, ‘Glory to dred people were making the walls God! Praise His Holy Name! of the little building swell and subside Suddenly a piercing scream rent the to the rhythm of the song. Tim had air, raising the hair on Tim's head. been to Little Bethel many a time in Old Miss Katie Harris sprang out into his younger days, but never had he the aisle, giggling and whining. She heard such singing. Then at the third came nearer to Tim, who sat convulsed stanza the preacher asked everybody to with terror. Then she fell upon him, rise, at the same time adding his voice clasping him around the neck, tearing to the tumult. If the music was great his collar apart, and in her ecstasy before, it was sublime now. Tim felt beating him in the face with her the chills run up and down his spine palm-leaf fan. When she had nearly at Brother Baxter's awful bass roaring strangled him with her long bony like the wind. He whispered excitedly fingers, she moved over to Sam. He to Sam, "y God, ain't that fine!' And clung to his seat and endured her only a sharp nudge from his partner pounding. Then, hopping and skipping made him realize that he was being in a marvelous manner for one of eighty profane in the house of God. He was years, she made her way back to her disappointed when the music subsided. seat. Already a dozen women were For if there had been a fourth stanza, sobbing loudly. And some fed their he felt that he would have joined in babies at bared breasts, unashamed
Brother Baxter then called for the in the depth of their emotion. Here and experience and thanks meeting, adding there small boys and girls, wedged that everyone had much to be thankful in between grown-ups, gnawed their for now, yea more than ever before, dry home-cooked cakes and stared at since the last stronghold of Satan in Tim with large wondering eyes. A the community was being broken down. feeling of rebellion rose in him. And And he cast a quick gleam out of his if at this point the preacher had not fiery eye at Tim. Brother Johnson was arisen and opened his Bible for the the first to get up and unroll his list sermon, he would very probably have of blessings from the Lord. He ended escaped through the door. by saying that his cup was 'plumb 'Brethren and sisters,' the speaker running over' now that one of their began. 'I 'm going to preach to you long-lost brothers was saved and the on the same subject of a few days ago other was on his way to be. For an — the weekedness of worldly music hour these experience talks went on, and dancing.' Tim looked helplessly and each person made his especial at Sam, but his head was already bowed reference to Sam and Tim.
for the drenching of wrath to come. Then he lowered his head, nor once did seed it with yer eyes? — when smoke he look up while the flood of words begins to roll in the west and a loud poured from the lips of the big dark voice cries out from land to sea' — he orator. Up and down the platform the lifted up his voice in a blood-curdling preacher strode, chanting and quoting yell — '“Time is no more! Time is from the Scriptures. ‘Yea,' he rushed no more!” And the hills will shake with on, his voice gathering violence, 'they terror, and the trees 'll be tore up by was a time when the sons of God come a mighty wind, and the rocks ’ll melt together toting they instruments of and run lak b’iling water, and the sun praise. It 's in the Book; read and and moon be turnt to blood. Dark know the truth. And the first one said, will be over the face of the earth. “I bring the harp. Is it a goodly instru- Where will you be! Where will you be ment?” “Verily it is good,” saith the when that last trumpet sounds! Sinner Lord. And another one fetched up the man, yea, you, Tim Messer, where lute, and Old Moster looked at it and will you be! You will cry mercy,” he said it was good, very good. And still screamed, ‘and there 'll be no mercy.' others fetched the psaltery, the sackbut, Tim felt his flesh freezing as the the pipe, — yea, they played on a kind terrible picture grew. At last the of pipe in them days, — the dulcimer preacher ended his description of Tim's and the trumpet and the shawm, and likely end by imitating the wails and even the bells. It 's in the Book; read screams that would rise to heaven and know. And last of all, they brung when he lay in outer darkness. His taborettes. And they was all declared yells and bellowings swept a score of to be good and worthy of hymning listeners to their knees. Several little praise to the Almighty. Later on come children already were writhing on the two fellows sneaking up, bringing — hay, and men were crying in different well, what was they bringing?' he parts of the house. Here and there old roared. “They was bringing a banjo women crouched at their seats agonizand a fiddle. What did the Lord do? ing over Tim's soul. As if in a dream, He said He knew 'em not, and, “Depart he heard them mentioning his name. ye 'cursed.” And right then and there Then Brother Baxter turned to the them two was condemned to rot in table and drank deeply from the Hell, yea, to roast in Hell fer making pitcher of water. He came back to mock of the Creator.' Here he pounded Tim and pleaded with him in a gentle on the table, and the windows rattled voice, as he sketched the estate of the in their sockets.
blessed sleeping in Abraham's bosom. When he had finally cursed the joy. “There they sing and make music all maker and the Devil's anointed, in the the days as one. Won't you come and person of Tim, to the bottomless pit be saved now, Tim?' unless he changed his way of living, he At the sweetness of his words, Tim stepped down from the pulpit and felt the hot tears go coursing down his gathered new strength.
leathery cheeks. He stood over Tim's shrinking form "Think o’yer mother there with and began to unroll before him the her arms stretched out to you this vision of the sinner's horror and despair very minute,' he continued. “And on that day of days. “What 's to be think o’yer father br’iling in t' other come of you, O sinner man! in that place!' he suddenly thundered. And judgment day? Have you heerd it? he went on comparing their different Oh, have you dreamed it? Have you conditions. When he had exhausted
on the floor. Tim by the shoulders
hair tenderlyin had grown quiet, he
his adjectives he bent close to Tim ma-loki! Whizzem-hi-shimminy! Ishiand began speaking of the day liki!' Others took it up. Combs and when he would die and the neighbors hairpins soon strewed the floor, and would come to lay out his cold body. men threw their coats and collars from 'And, Brother Tim,' he concluded in them as they sprang up and down in heartbroken tones, 'on that day, the air. Tim stumbled forward and mebbe on that dark and stormy night, fell sobbing at the mourner's bench. while you lays there beating out yer The victorious parson called for friends last breath and the lamp burns low to come and wrestle for his soul, and beside yer bed, the Devil'll come half the congregation swept up and creeping, creeping, up, up, on, on to around him. Brother Baxter himself the porch. He 'll open the door jest got down beside Tim, and as the song a crack, now a little wider, a little went on with, — wider, and he 'll stick his head in, his
‘Almost persuaded now to believe, grinning head in, and look at you laying
Almost persuaded Christ to receive,' — there helpless in bed.
Aunt Margaret screamed out above he shouted in his ringing head, ‘Give the moaning and praying of the audi- it up! Give it up! Be saved now, now! ence. Brother Baxter kept his eyes on To-morrow 's too late. Glory to God, Tim. 'He 'll come in easy, oh, so easy, give it up! his tail making a grisly sliding sound I n half an hour Tim was saved. on the floor. Then!'he roared, seizing The preacher stood near him, smiling the terrified Tim by the shoulders, seraphically and smoothing his thin ‘he 'll jump onto the bed and carry off hair tenderly as he would an infant's. yer soul screaming to everlasting hell! And when Tim had grown quiet, he And he shook him like a rag.
asked him to stand up and make Then Tim could stand no more. He public his profession of faith. He fell upon his knees at his seat. Aunt staggered to his feet and mumbled Margaret screamed a second time and out something about being saved and went off in a faint. Thereupon a din living the life of God. Then he colarose and went out over the quiet lapsed on his bench. countryside of Little Bethel. Women Brother Baxter announced that the and men shouted and danced before meeting was over. And after a few the Lord. And every little child in the business matters had been settled, he house made his way to the pile of straw pronounced the benediction, ending and fell upon it, many of them in a the greatest revival that had ever half trance from the extremity of terror visited Little Bethel. and the consciousness of their lost and ruined condition. Sam was already down at his bench, praying and clutching his hair.
That night for the first time Tim said Brother Baxter called for a song, and grace over their supper. He was able a great rhythm of 'Almost Persuaded' to growl out only a few words about shook the roof. Old Miss Katie sprang being thankful — amen. But he'd out into the aisle again and began decided to begin right. And after the speaking in tongues. Above the tu- meal, he got the old Bible down and mult her shrill voice could be heard at last managed to read a chapter in pouring out a stream of senseless John. Then Aunt Margaret led in words, 'Hoofey-beigh Jesus! Hokum- family prayer, and they went to bed.
But Tim could not sleep. He felt with all this fine crop and the pink o' queer and far away from things about evening setting in?' him. The house seemed different, and ‘Yeh, 't is, Tim. You got a good that afternoon he had not gone down crop. But you 'n' me 's been warned to look at his bottom corn. “Mebbe not to feel pride over the here and now, I 'm already a-giving up the goods o' you must remember. I did n't come this world,' he thought. But he was not special to look at yer crop nohow, Tim. happy. Near morning he fell into a I wanted to ax you what you going to sleep, tortured with dreams of the Devil do with yer fiddle.' and a fiery pit yawning before him. “What you going to do with yer As he was being cast headlong into the banjo, Sam?' fire, he awoke with a low scream. He 'I done got rid of it. Dunno whe'r lay the rest of the night shivering and I done right or not. Eph Slocumb's miserable.
boy over on Little River wanted a More than once his mind dwelt on banjo, and I let him have mine yistiddy the instrument under the bed. At last, to keep fer me. He promised to say as day was breaking, he got up softly nothing 'bout it.' and dressed. Taking the fiddle under “What would the preacher say to his arm, he stole from the house and that, Sam? Mebbe you're putting went to the barn. There he wrapped it temptation in Ed's way,' Tim rejoined. well in an old cotton sheet, put it in 'Well, I jest could n't tear it up. a box and nailed the lid down. Then It was sorter lak a part of me,' said he got a shovel and went into the woods Sam, as he gazed gloomily down a back of the house. The birds were dusk-filled row. singing in the dogwoods, and dew hung ‘Yeh, I know. Well, I buried my over his cotton. Spider-webs gleamed fiddle out back o'the house under like silver nets among the grass and a holly. I reckon it'll be there till bushes, and the whole east was a judgment day.' splash of red, sprinkled above with pink and silver racks which the Little Bethel people called 'rain seed.? But The weeks that followed were Tim no longer noticed the freshness wretched ones for Tim. More than and glory of the earth. Under a shady once he had gone to the holly and been holly tree he dug a hole, put the fiddle tempted to dig up his fiddle. And in, and covered it up. And when he several times he had chewed weeds had made a little mound, he stood and grass to ease his terrible hunger looking at it with a mournful expres- for tobacco. But so far he had successsion. Then he stuck a stick at the head fully withstood the tempter. And and foot and went away.
now, as he went into the fodder-field About sunset, when he was milking on this particular Saturday morning, old Sook, Sam came up the lane and he realized that the day of the greatest stopped. He leaned over the fence and temptation had come. For to-night asked Tim if he wanted to take a walk. was Molly O'Quinn's dance on Little Leaving the pail at the house, they set River. And he could n't help thinking off down toward the bottom. There about it. All day long he pictured to among his corn, Tim looked out at himself the different people who would the flaming west and felt something of be there. And worst of all was the the old spirit move within him, and he remembrance of Molly's bright eyes murmured, ‘Ain't it purty now, Sam, watching him in frank admiration